Occasional bleeding is inevitable, whether you have hemophilia A or not. However, if you do have this lifelong condition, extra care is required to help prevent bleeds. A workout-related injury can cause scrapes and bruises, while more serious falls and bumps can lead to open cuts. Having surgery or dental work can cause bleeds, too.
No matter what the cause of a bleed, you need to know what steps to take to stop the bleeding and prevent complications. More significant bleeds may require medical attention. Here are eight tips for managing bleeds with hemophilia A.
Identify the type of bleeding
Hemophilia A may cause both internal and external bleeding. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, bleeding in the joints is the most common in the more severe form of hemophilia A. You may also have minor bleeds from sites of recent injury to your limbs. Both minor internal and external bleeding may be treated with home remedies. Bandages can help minor cuts, while ice can help with internal bruising.
However, some types of internal bleeding need immediate medical treatment, including bleeding in the head, throat, or GI tract (stomach and intestines). Signs and symptoms of bleeding in the head include:
- severe, prolonged headache
- repeated vomiting
- sudden weakness
- double vision
Signs and symptoms of bleeding in the throat or GI tract include:
- vomiting blood
- black or bloody stools
If bruising is accompanied by any severe or persistent pain, enlargement, or numbness, see your doctor right away.
Determine the severity of the bleed
Severe hemophilia A is the most common type.
- Spontaneous bleeding occurs at least once or twice a week with the severe form of hemophilia A, according to the World Federation of Hemophilia.
- If you have moderate hemophilia A, you may still bleed spontaneously, but only occasionally. You will usually have prolonged or excessive bleeding after any significant injury or surgery.
- Mild cases tend to cause bleeding only after an injury or surgical procedure.
If the bleeding appears to be minor and you have mild hemophilia A, then you can likely treat the injury at home without having to see a doctor.
Use bandages and pressure for cuts
Minor external bleeding is treatable with the help of bandages and applying mild pressure to the site.
- First, clean any debris out of the way with a soft cloth and warm water.
- Next, use gauze to place pressure on the wound and then put a bandage on top. You may need to swap out bandages if any bleeding soaks through.
Keep an ice pack handy
Since hemophilia A can cause internal bleeding, you may be more prone to bruises from minor bumps than someone without the condition. These are likely to occur on your arms and legs, but you can get bruises anywhere on your body. Minor internal bleeding may be minimized with the help of an ice pack. Place the ice pack on the area as soon as you get injured.
You don’t necessarily need to see a doctor if you get bruised. However, any severe or persistent pain, enlargement, or numbness should be addressed with your doctor right away.
Choose the right pain medications, if needed
Not all injuries require pain medications. Before you take any over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications for bleeding or pain, be sure you’re not putting yourself at risk for complications. Common OTC pain medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can make bleeding worse. You might consider acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead — just be sure to ask your doctor first.
Determine if you need replacement therapy
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, mild bleeding from hemophilia A doesn’t usually require replacement therapy. However, if you continue to experience bleeding, it may be time to replace your factor VIII concentrations. Depending on your treatment plan, you may be able to take these therapies at home. In some cases, you may need to go to a medical facility for treatment.
Consider DDAVP to prevent minor bleeds
If you have mild to moderate hemophilia A, you may be able to prevent bleeds before they happen. Your doctor may recommend desmopressin (DDAVP). DDAVP is a prescription medication that contains hormones that stimulate the release of clotting factor VIII. It’s administered via injection or nasal spray and helps to make sure your blood clots in case of injury.
The downside to DDAVP is that it can become less effective over time if you take it too often. You may want to use it sparingly, saving it for high-risk situations such as playing sports. Some people also choose to use DDAVP before getting dental work done.
See your physical therapist
Sometimes, minor bleeds from hemophilia A can lead to muscle and joint pain. Frequent bleeds in the joints can also wear down bones over time. Rather than relying on steroids and pain medications, physical therapy may help alleviate some of the inflammation. For physical therapy to work, you need to go to regular sessions. If you have an external wound, make sure it’s properly bandaged before attending a session.
Any type of bleeding from hemophilia should be discussed with a doctor, especially if it worsens or doesn’t improve with home treatment. Also, see your doctor if you notice any blood in your stools or urine, or if you’re throwing up blood. These symptoms may indicate more severe cases of bleeding that can’t be treated at home.